Card giants extend fee relief for retailers on tourist spending until 2029

In a move welcomed by EU regulators, payment giants Visa and Mastercard have voluntarily agreed to extend caps on interchange fees for non-EU card transactions until November 2029.

This decision extends the commitments originally made in 2019 for an additional five years beyond their planned expiration in November 2024.

The European Commission announced on Friday that the two companies will maintain the current fee structure for both in-store and online purchases. For physical transactions, fees will remain capped at 0.2 per cent for debit cards and 0.3 per cent for credit cards. Online transaction fees will continue to be limited to 1.15 per cent for debit cards and 1.5 per cent for credit cards.

These caps apply to transactions where consumers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) use their Visa or Mastercard-branded cards to make purchases within the EEA. The Commission noted that the extension provides continued protection for EEA merchants against potentially excessive charges, given that Visa and Mastercard remain "must-take" payment options for many businesses.

The original commitments, made legally binding in 2019, resulted from a long-running EU antitrust investigation sparked by a 1997 complaint from business lobby EuroCommerce. The agreement led to a significant reduction—approximately 40 per cent on average—in multilateral interchange fees for these types of transactions.

Whilst welcoming the voluntary extension, the Commission emphasised that it retains the right to investigate or open proceedings should evidence emerge that the current caps are no longer appropriate. This caveat underscores the regulator's ongoing commitment to ensuring fair practices in the payment card industry.

Visa expressed satisfaction with the arrangement, stating that the extended fee caps "provide market certainty on inter-regional interchange rates". The company also highlighted the recognition that "cross border, e-commerce transactions are fundamentally different to in-store payments".

As the world's largest payments network operators, Visa and Mastercard's decision to maintain these fee caps is likely to have far-reaching implications for the global payments landscape, particularly in the realm of international tourism and cross-border ecommerce.

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